Australian Politics 2015-08-15 15:52:00

The Gay and the godless: The Left pushing their agenda

HOMOSEXUAL marriage is a minor issue for most Australians but it is being pushed to the forefront by the ABC and other agenda-driven organisations hell-bent on marginalising religion in their push for a secular nation.

Mainstream Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and followers of other faiths believe in the traditional form of marriage which has prevailed in all cultures for millennia.

Many for whom homosexual marriage has suddenly become a burning issue are those who take issue with religion.

Abruptly changing age-old definitions to suit relatively recent fashions is extremely dangerous, but it is clear that Labor believes it is even more dangerous to take a principledstand in electorates where there is a large Green and/or homosexual vote.

The ABC’s Radio National is obsessed with the issue, though its presenters do not warn listeners of their personal conflicts of interest.

The national broadcaster, which has always been concerned with the possibility of repercussions for the Muslim community whenever an Islamist extremist commits another atrocity, cannot even bring itself to mention the fact that Muslims are among the most violently opposed to homosexuality, let alone the thought of homosexual marriages.

In a discussion of the issue this week, the ABC commentator preferred to bloviate about “large conservative ­migrant populations” in Western Sydney which might be offended by such marriages rather than speak honestly and openly and say they were Muslim.

Eight years ago, deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek was out and proud opposing homosexual marriage.

So, too, was Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2007, as was Julia Gillard when she had succeeded him as Labor prime minister successor in 2010.

“Labor does not support changing the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage,” Plibersek promised on March 21, 2007.

Rudd told the ABC on August 10, 2007: “I have a pretty basic view on this, as reflected in the position adopted by our party, and that is, that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

That was the traditional, universally recognised view of marriage then. It was reconfirmed when the Australian Marriage Amendment Act (2004) passed with the support of both major parties. Why are we having a debate now?

The answer is the threat posed to Labor by the rise of the Greens in the House and its Senate successes in 2010.

With the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate and the Labor government depending on the loose alliance of loopy independents and the first Green MP in the Lower House, Gillard permitted a free vote on the issue in 2012. It lost. She remained opposed to homosexual marriage.

In an August 2013 Fairfax Nielsen Poll, 57 per cent of ­respondents said that same-sex marriage was “not important at all” in deciding how they would vote in the coming ­election. Just last month, the Leftist activist organisation GetUp asked its claimed 950,000 members to help prioritise its top five campaigns. It received responses from 30,818 who listed the issues that were most important to them.

Homosexual marriage was not in the top five, nor the top 10, not even in the top 15.

It proved to be the issue of sixteenth order importance.

This would suggest that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not “stuck in the past”, as ­Opposition leader Bill Shorten sneers at every opportunity, but is more in tune with Australians than the Labor leader.

In his maiden speech in 2007, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison presciently noted that it has become ­”fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their ­Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country”.

Yet faith drove anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and anti-apartheid ­leader Desmond Tutu, to name just two, who stood for the immutable truths and principles of Christianity and transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process.

The degree of intolerant outrage expressed against the views of religious leaders from all faiths who oppose the hysterical homosexual marriage campaign speaks to the real agenda of this jihad.


Why are Australian pre-schoolers behaving badly?

“Experts” say too much testing and formal learning is behind the soaring number of prep suspensions.  But that’s a kneejerk explanation for almost everything from Leftist teachers.  A small revival of discipline is the probable cause.  Pupils who are disruptive SHOULD be removed to protect the learning environment for others

SUSPENSIONS of Prep students in Queensland have soared 130 per cent in only five years as our littlest students crumble under the pressure of schoolwork instead of play. Prep suspensions leapt from 379 in 2010 to 572 in 2013 and to a staggering 873 last year, according to the Department of Education and Training (DETE) data.

Teachers and health professionals believe the bad behaviour in young pupils is a result of the stress of too much formal learning forced on them by the national curriculum.

Educational author and former teacher Maggie Dent told The Courier-Mail play-based learning in Prep has been relegated below the more academic curriculum which is stressing many children who are responding with “inappropriate behaviour”, such as social isolation and aggression.

Ms Dent said while Queensland was a hotspot, it was a similar picture nationwide as many kids failed to adapt to the “schoolification” of Prep, aimed at making kids NAPLAN-ready by Year 3.

She said the “push down” of formalised learning for children under six and the “stealing and demonising of play for children aged four to six” was fuelling an education crisis in young ones.

“The rise in aggressive behaviour being exhibited by many younger children, mainly in the boys, is a sign that they are unable to cope with environments with no opportunity to play, no fun, little movement and developmentally inappropriate tasks,” Ms Dent said.

At kindy, Alex Bate was a “happy little man”, socially active, emotionally healthy. The next year in Prep, mum Simone witnessed a dramatic turn in his character, as Alex became stressed, anxious and fearful.

“He started to have huge anxiety issues,” Bate recalls. “He’d become teary and not want to go to school … He’d shut down in class, wouldn’t answer questions and cry at the prospect of doing show and tell.”

Bate ended up keeping Alex home for about 40 days of that year. It wasn’t that he wasn’t ready for school. He just wasn’t ready for a brand of schooling that hits five-year-olds with structured schoolwork – sight words, workbooks and even homework.

Brisbane pediatrician Andrea McGlade said her Possums Clinic had recorded a spike in Prep-aged children presenting with behavioural problems as a result of their difficulties in coping with a sit-and-learn curriculum.

Dr Andrea McGlade with her daughter Gemma Ware, 5, says many prep kids are too young to make “good behavioural choices”.  “Most of these children have underlying developmental or learning difficulties that mean that they are struggling to adapt to the requirements of the classroom,” Dr McGlade said.

It is hugely concerning that children are ever suspended from the early years of school, she says, but particularly prep kids too young to make “good behavioural choices”.

She says there has been no deterioration in the developmental status of prep-aged children, proven by two Australian Early Development Censuses in 2009 and 2012. What has changed in that time, though, is the arrival of the new curriculum.

With teachers tied to more rigid schoolwork structures and targets, they have less flexibility to adapt teaching to help these children through, she says.

A DETE spokesman rules out any link between the suspensions and behavioural problems in schools and says it may mean schools are simply tougher on discipline in line with greater disciplinary powers given to principals in 2014.

But teachers, health professionals and commentators say it’s part of an education crisis in young people, driven by a culture
of academic achievement fuelled by NAPLAN and being foisted on kids too young, overwhelming many and sparking bad behaviour.

At an age when our youngest should be carefree, they are instead anxious, even aggressive and often marginalised. And, according to some, it may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Early Childhood Teachers’ Association president Kim Walters can recall when prep suspensions were in single figures.

The national curriculum and its effect on children, she says, is a huge talking point among teachers with the problem set to worsen under DETE’s new early-start provisions allowing children to start the school year aged four (if they are five before July 31.)

Walters says the concerns are borne out in a recent survey of early-childhood teachers showing only 12 of 62 prep children in the teachers’ care were coping. (Most were girls). Almost 60 per cent of the teachers thought kids should be at least five before starting prep, and only 4 per cent of prep teachers supported the early-entry provision. Importantly, the teachers noted that while most kids may be academically ready, they are not ready physically, socially and emotionally.

While acknowledging the suspension spike, Queensland Principals’ Association president Michael Fay says 873 pupils is a fraction of Queensland’s 45,000 Prep pupils, and principals cannot ignore behaviours that disrupt other students. Fay says it’s also important that principals do not condone or ignore behaviour in these early years.

Two years on from his prep struggle, Alex, now 7 and in Year 2, is thriving after two tough years.  “This year he finally seems ready to start more formal learning,” Bate says. “But back then, he simply was not ready.”


Should we welcome the end of the mining boom?

AUSTRALIANS could be forgiven for being worried about life after the mining boom but there’s one set of figures we can take comfort in.

While there’s no doubt the rise in commodity prices has been a dominant economic driver in Australia for years, policy analyst Miriam Lyons says people should remember that Australia was growing quite well without it.

Lyons points to a Lowy Institute paper that found that in the 10 years prior to 2002, Australia’s GDP, national income and productivity all grew faster in the decade before the mining boom than in the decade after it began.

The author of the paper, John Edwards, a former adviser to Paul Keating and now a Reserve Bank board member, also found that incomes and employment rose as much before as after the boom.

Lyons, who was founding executive director of the Centre for Policy Development, will speak at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas next month about whether Australia should welcome the end of the boom.

“I’m definitely not suggesting that Australia hasn’t benefited economically from the boom in mining investment, or that managing the end of the investment boom will be easy,” Lyons told

However, she said there were important lessons that Australia should take away from its experiences.

She said that during the boom many other industries, such as tourism, education, agriculture and manufacturing were damaged because of the massive rise in the Australian dollar.

This includes the Australian wine industry, which was once making huge gains overseas, but now seems to have been pushed out by cheaper products from Chile and Argentina.

Now that commodity prices have dropped, these industries could come back, although they have not bounced back as quickly as some had hoped they would.

“We need better policies for the next boom … that will not hollow out the economy to such a great extent and have such a cost in terms of volatility,” Lyons said.

She said that during the boom Australia’s exports became dominated by resources, which was problematic because of how volatile these products are.

Finance and mining stocks grew to make up more than half the value of the Australian Stock Exchange.

“Mining stocks tend to be volatile and people’s super funds [which are linked to the stockmarket] could have volatile returns, especially if they have entered the drawdown phase,” Lyons said.

While coal looks like it might be in permanent decline, Lyons said demand for things like iron ore would likely recover, and some also believe there will be increasing demand for liquid natural gas.

This is one of the reasons Lyons believes Australia should place a higher price on its commodities in the future.

“(Resources) are not going to move,” Lyons said.

She said that resources were limited and, while a potential buyer could decide to get them cheaper elsewhere in the short term, as supply dried up they might eventually have to buy them from Australia in the longer term. This would also have created a slower boom, which Lyons believes would have been better for the country.

“Over the long term, we would have benefited more from a slower boom, with higher mining taxes and a sovereign wealth fund helping to insulate the rest of Australia’s economy from the impact of mining investment on the dollar,” Lyons said.

“This is a lesson we should learn from and act on now, so we’re better prepared when the price of iron ore etc rises once again.”

Lyons believes Australia could have followed the example of a country like Norway, which taxes its petroleum industry heavily. It charges a 51 per cent resource tax on oil company profits as well as ordinary income tax of 27 per cent. This brings the total tax liability for oil companies to 78 per cent.

Most of the money raised goes into a sovereign wealth fund, which is valued at over $900 billion, and is the world’s biggest.

Lyons said that in Norway no one was confused about who the oil belonged to, and that this natural wealth should benefit its citizens.

As the mining boom ends, Australia needs to look to the future and Lyons said the International Monetary Fund recommended more investment in infrastructure as one way of transitioning the economy away from resources.


A serious problem with Australian tax: Removal of CGT indexation

We would be helped by restoration of capital gains tax (CGT) rules that Treasurer Peter Costello discarded in 1999.

Many commentators, particularly those on the “left”, rightly criticise the government for giving a 50 per cent tax discount on capital gains, but the story is a little more complex.

Until 1985 Australia had no effective taxes on capital gains. In a major set of tax reforms the Hawke-Keating Government introduced an effective CGT regime with two important provisions. One was that CGT was assessed only on the real (inflation-adjusted) component of capital gains: illusory gains resulting from inflation were not taxed. The other was protection against a large and once-off capital gain pushing a taxpayer into a high tax bracket.

That system came as close as practicable to perfect neutrality between income from corporate dividends and income from capital gains.

That was to change in 1999, when in the name of encouraging “financial dynamism” (bankers’ code for irresponsible speculation), John Howard’s friend John Ralph convinced Treasurer Peter Costello that the CGT system needed changing.

As is well known, that change meant that the CGT for assets held for more than a year is now based on only half the gain.

The other big and less publicised change was removal of indexation. From 1999 onwards CGT has been applied not only to the real gain, but also to the inflationary component. To illustrate, if someone invests $100 in a company’s shares, and three years later sells those shares for $150, over which time inflation has been 10 per cent (a typical three year inflation figure), under the old system the base would have been indexed upwards to $110 and CGT would have been levied on a real profit of $40.  Under Ralph-Costello new system CGT is levied on half of $50, or $25.

That’s the usual way the Ralph-Costello changes to CGT are viewed, as a big gain for investors.

But consider that same $100 invested by a patient investor with a long time horizon – perhaps as a shareholder in a private company. If, after 30 years, that company had not increased in real value, which is the case for many stable enterprises, on realisation the investor would not have incurred any CGT under the old system. But with three per cent annual inflation its nominal value would have increased to $242 (100 x 1.0330), and tax would be applied on $71, being half the nominal gain of $142.

The Ralph-Costello changes tipped the scales in favour of short-term speculators, and against the interests of those who were in it for the long haul. Costello was sold the idea on the basis that the old system was too complicated – it seems that he found year 6 mathematics a little too complex.

The members of the Ralph Committee, which included Westpac boss Bob Joss, certainly knew their mathematics. A system favouring short-term over long-term investment means more commissions for stockbrokers and other coupon clippers, and more money sloshing into and out of bank accounts. A triumph of the paper economy over the real economy.

In the early 2000s Peter Martin and I were among those who warned of the consequences of the Ralph changes, particularly in relation to housing, but people were too busy making profits on negatively-geared property to read such killjoy material.

The experience of 2008 should have made clear the consequences of “financial dynamism” and of policies that encourage short-term impression management over long-term wealth creation, but we don’t seem to have learned from the GFC.

In yet another call to sanity Black Rock CEO Larry Fink has written to more than 500 of America’s largest companies warning them to resist pressures “to meet short-term financial goals at the expense of building long-term value”, and calling on governments “to address public policy that fosters long-term behaviour”. He suggests that rates of CGT should fall, the longer the investment – the very opposite to the system Costello loaded on to us.

But our government isn’t listening. The government’s tax discussion paper doesn’t acknowledge the disincentive effect of non-indexation of CGT – instead it repeats the idea that indexation carried “complexity” and a “compliance burden”, implying that Hockey, like Costello, also struggles with high school mathematics.